16 - 22 September 1999
Issue No. 447
|Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875|
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Yes to reconciliationThe referendum due to take place in Algeria today on the civil reconciliation law proposed by President Abdel-Aziz Bouteflika is, hopefully, a first step on what is likely to prove a long and difficult road towards restoring peace and stability to the country.
Algeria, which fought a long and bloody war for independence, a war in which more than a million Algerians gave their lives in the ultimately successful attempt to free the country from French colonialism, retains a special place in the hearts of many in the region. And under the late President Houare Boumedienne Algeria played a leading role in the Non-Aligned Movement, and was one of the sincerest supporters of a variety of Arab causes.
Three decades later, though, and this beautiful country has once more been brought to its knees and is again a battlefield. Reports of massacres involving civilians have been almost daily news items for seven years now during which time international opinion has recoiled from a steady diet of atrocity after atrocity.
Given the events of the past seven years restoring peace is not going to be easy. One hopeful sign, though, is that the majority of Algerians now appear to have reached the conclusion that enough is enough, and seem fully behind President Bouteflika's initiative to restore stability.
The Algerian president's proposals seem assured of wide-spread support as the extremists become ever more isolated from the majority opinion, and alienated from ordinary Algerians. And certainly few peoples of the world can know better than the citizens of Algeria that peace and stability are the essential prerequisites for any return to normality.
In today's referendum, then, the people of Algeria actually face very little choice for yes is the only possible vote if normality is eventually to be restored and the Algerians are to enjoy, once more, their hard-won freedom.